In another attempt to gain the Centre’s attention, Tamil Nadu farmers on Tuesday staged a protest by eating rice off the ground. Known as Mannu Soru in Tamil, farmers poured sambaar on cooked rice and ate it off the tarred road. Over 100 farmers have been camping in Jantar Mantar for the last month demanding drought relief measures from the central government.
“Today we mingled food with the mud. The central government has forced us farmers to take mud as food. We provide good food for people all over India, now the Centre has allowed the farmers of TN to mingle the food with mud,” P Ayyakannu, leader of the protests, told indianexpress.com.
“As far as TN is concerned, there is heavy drought. TN is entirely different compared to other states. We will fight until the government writes off all loans in nationalised banks,” he added.
Premalatha Vijayakanth, the wife of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) chief Vijayakanth surprised farmers by joining them in eating off the ground.
The primary demand is for loan waivers for all farmers in the state. For this, they have asked for a drought-relief package of Rs 40,000 crore. Farmers are also pushing for the inter-linking of rivers, pensions and a Cauvery management board as measures to protect farmers in the future.
“This protest is just the start. Even if the government does waive our loans, what about farmers in the next 10, 15…20 years? The government should plan and execute.” said 28-year-old Murugesam from Tirunelveli district.
A delegation of nine farmers was denied a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. On being told to hand over their memorandum to a security guard at the PMO and asked to leave, one of the farmers stripped naked and ran down the road in anger. He was joined by two others, who were equally frustrated.
For 29 days, the farmers have carried out dramatic protests, including using skulls, holding dead rats in their mouths to indicate that they will be forced to eat rodents if the situation worsens, and even threatening to slit their throats if their demands aren’t met.
“We wake up every day and decide on a method to protest. This is not pre-planned,” said a youth, who is supporting the cause on behalf of his father back in Tamil Nadu. On being asked what next, Ayyakannu said, “We will be here till our death.”